Frequent flyers to airlines: not so fast, fellows

images-gent-protest-2006-masses-500x500.jpgVox populi: the voice of the people has spoken, and it has told airline guys to think again. So they did, and in response to protest by their frequent flyers, some major carriers have reversed recently announced changes to their loyalty plans

The latest is US Airways, which reversed a widely unpopular move and said it would reinstate bonus miles and a 500-mile minimum benefit for members with Preferred status in its Dividend Miles plan. The carrier had rescinded the minimum award and the bonus points earlier in the year, and said it would give the elites only as many points as the actual miles flown. For travellers in the top tier of its Dividend Miles program, Preferred flyers who schlep 100,000 miles a year or more, the change had the effect of cutting their mileage balance in half. Randy Petersen, the frequent-flyer expert behind FlyerTalk and InsideFlyer magazine, began an on-line campaign he called ‘Save Dividend Miles’ to bring attention to the decision and he was overwhelmed with postings. So in response the carrier will reinstate the awards retroactively to August 6 for members of the four preferred status levels.



Tempe, Arizona-based US Airways also said a 500-mile minimum award would apply to all flights on its northeast Shuttle routes. The carrier’s Andrew Nocella, senior vice president for marketing and other stuff, said Preferred members “are extremely important to us.” You bet, Andy. Randy’s response: “While the


recent move to return a valuable benefit to members is welcome, some former Preferred members say the decision is too little, too late. Others appreciate the gesture and one member was pleasantly surprised by the news…”

The US Airways move follows a similar reversal by fellow Star Alliance member United, which decided earlier this month to reinstate minimum awards for its Mileage Plus elite members, retroactively to July 1. Similarly, Delta Air Lines told its frequent flyers in a memo the other day that it had cancelled a program that allowed coach flyers to upgrade to better seats for a payment of $5 to $25, depending on the length of the flight and the new seat’s location.

But members of Delta’s SkyMiles plan had objected, fearing that they would not be able to reserve the better seats, and the carrier’s vice president of loyalty programs, Jeff Robertson, said “retaining your long-term loyalty is of paramount importance to us and we’re not afraid to change course when we need.” The funny thing is that Delta had had a nice entry in its neat Under the Wing blog about this reversal, but that posting seems to have been downgraded to a comment..

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